Good Posture Can Do Wonders
One of the most often treated diagnoses in Physical Therapy is spinal related conditions typically in the form of neck or low back sprain/strains or disc injuries. Most spinal conditions can be successfully treated conservatively with positioning, core/pelvic strengthening, and stretching. A high percentage of spinal injuries or conditions often become chronic conditions with intermittent exacerbations and remissions. Attention needs to be paid to several areas in order to maintain a reduction in pain and avoid exacerbations or further injury.
All too often patients will report low back injury with simple tasks of bending and/or lifting as well as having increased pain with static (resting) positions such as sitting or lying down. Disc material is soft and free to move within the confines of its tough outer covering. Changes in pressures placed on the discs can lead to spinal injuries, such as the commonly heard terms of bulging and/or herniations. One of the major contributors to abnormal discal pressures is poor posturing. The natural curvatures of the spine should be maintained in all positions and activities including sitting, standing, lying, and lifting/bending tasks.
While sitting, the knees and hips should be maintained at a 90 degree angle or “L” with the feet flat on the floor. Maintain a hollowing of the low back, shoulders should rest directly over the hips and the ears directly over the shoulders. Soft chairs often promote poor posturing and therefore a firmer chair should be utilized to maintain proper positioning. Utilize a small towel roll at the small of the back to encourage proper hollowing of the low back. Maintaining a normal resting alignment of the spine will reduce disc pressures and risk of injury especially in an individual with chronic back issues. Standing postures of the spine should be maintained in the same fashion. Poor static posture will also impact the neck especially with prolonged forward bend such as while reading, working on the computer or sleeping with too many pillows, for example.
Proper positioning and mechanics during bending and lifting tasks are necessary to avoid increased muscular strain and increased disc pressures that can result in injury. Bending to retrieve an object from the floor should not be performed by bending from the spine, but utilizing the legs in a squatting position or a half kneel. Keep all objects close to your body in order to reduce the amount of stress placed on the core and low back. Proper spinal alignments explained above should be maintained throughout the bend or lifting activity. Remember repetitive bending lifting tasks will often increase the risk of injury and proper posture is that much more important. Avoid quick bending/lifting tasks or head movements to reduce risk of injury.
Consult your medical professional for further tips on maintaining a healthy spine.
Stephen DiGiambattista PT, DPT is a Physical Therapist at North Pocono ProCare Physical Therapy. If there are questions, concerns, or you have ideas for future columns, please contact Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org.